Saturday, November 30, 2013

Rustic Christmas Advent Calendar

Today's post is courtesy of Marcie - one of my best friends, former mission companion (Macau ROCKS!!), and a missionary mom to Hannah serving in California.  She found these adorable, rustic burlap bag advent calendars at her local craft store, decorated them, and filled them with a scripture reminiscent of the season and a coordinating treat.  They are amazing and her missionary is going to LOVE them.

While your local craft store may not have this exact product, you could easily make your own using burlap from the fabric/craft store OR...

...I found these little beauties online from
Just string them together with a little jute.  CUTE!!

They measure 3.5"x 5" - which is larger than Marcie's.  On the bright side, now there will be room for double treats in the bag.  One for your missionary and one for their companion.  They are bundled in packages of 24 (Perfect count for an advent calendar!) for $12.  The same product is offered here through only these are bundled in packages of 50 for $16 so if you need to make two advent calendars, this would be perfect.  You probably couldn't buy burlap for that price.
Click on the above photo and it will take you right there...


Decorate your bags - if desired.

Number your bags - this is really a is after all, an Advent Calendar, right?

Now you get to fill your bags with all sorts of fun things that will help bring a bit of the season into your missionary's life every day leading to Christmas.  Marcie was kind enough to include a list of the ideas that she used.  They are in no particular order but it wouldn't be difficult to put them into a specific order should you choose.  These are all spiritual based and would be a fun addition to their companionship study each morning.  Thanks, Marcie!!

Scripture Countdown: 
John 3:16
(wrapped square chocolate tied with a ribbon to look like a gift)
Doctrine & Covenants 43:34
(pack of Lifesavers - Savior)
Luke 22:44
(red jelly beans - to represent 'blood')
Isaiah 1:18
(white jelly beans - to represent 'purity')
Matthew 2:7-8
(M&M's - to represent W for 'Wisemen')
John 10:14
(candy cane - to represent the 'Good Shepard')
Matthew 2:9
(yellow Starburst candies - to represent the 'star')
Matthew 2:11
(gold candy coins - to represent 'gold, frankincense and myrh')
John 6:35
(animal crackers - to represent the 'bread of life')
John 6:40
(green jelly beans - to represent 'everlasting life')
Doctrine & Covenants 76:41
(cinnamon bear or gummy bears - to represent 'bear our sins')
John 14:27
(Reese's Pieces candy - to represent 'peace')
Doctrine & Covenants 133:22
(Ande's mints - to represent 'mountain')
2 Nephi 26:25
(Bit-o-honey candy - to represent 'honey')
Matthew 26:39
(mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup candy - to represent 'remove this cup')
Luke 6:21
(mini Snicker's candy bar - to represent 'laughter')
Matthew 4:19
(Swedish Fish - to represent 'fishers of men')
Hymn 201, Joy to the World, sing all verses
(mini Almond Joy candy bar)
Hymn 214, I Heard the Bells, sing all verses
(chocolate covered bell candy)
John 15:1
(licorice pieces - to represent the 'true vine')
Matthew 11:29
(Smartie candy - to represent 'learn of me')
 3 Nephi 11:19
(Hershey's Kiss candy - to represent 'kiss His feet')
Alma 7:12
(sucker - to represent 'succor')
3 Nephi 11:11
(dark chocolate - to represent 'bitter cup')

To make tags to insert into your bag, simply cut cardstock into the appropriate size for your bags, punch a hole in one end and attach a ribbon, decorate tag, if desired with stickers, etc., and hand write the scripture reference onto your tag.  You could actually print out the scripture in it's entirety but in my opinion (for what that's worth!), it would be more effective and strengthen the companionship if they looked up the scripture and read it aloud together.  Just a thought...
For those small items listed above i.e. jelly beans, M&M's etc., put them into a small reclosable bag (like this, for example available from Amazon or the jewelry department of your local craft shop) or wrap them in plastic wrap so they don't fall out during the mailing process.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Another Box of Sun

As many of you know, Matt is serving in Seattle.  It's raining a LOT there and he is getting a little low  and dispirited.  Our doctor here thinks that he might be suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) because Matt was a sun God prior to his mission.  He and his brothers operate a yard care business during the summer and then during the winter he was a snow board instructor at a ski resort here in Utah.  To go from solid sun to solid grey has been a bit trying on both he and his companion.  My cute sister and her daughters put together this Box of Sun to help brighten his  He is going to LOVE it!

They found this adorable printable from to include. 
You can find it here.
Here's a list 'sunny' ideas:
Werther's candy
Grandma's relish (it's yellow)
Golden Oreo Cookies
yellow kitchen towels
yellow StarBursts
dish scrubby thingie
Lemon drink flavoring
(which I've heard is to die for)

lemon scented hand soap
butterscotch disks
Lemonade cupcakes
butter microwave popcorn
yellow Noisy Putty
(it makes little 'improper' sounds when you play with it. Matt is going to love it!)

yellow rain poncho
(cause if you've gotta wear a rain poncho you may as well be in sunny YELLOW!)
silly string
Juicy Fruit gum
Lemon Head candy
Lemon Head candy canes
(who knew?)
yellow PostIt Notes
Mr. Goodbar candy bars
yellow hippopotamus Punch Ball

and a...yellow tie
(Because you can't send an Elder a package without a tie.  Am I right?)

Everyone also included a little letter...

And the finished product!  It all fit into the medium Flat Rate box from the post office.
Thanks Arave family!  (I have the best family EVER!)
Elder Brown is going to be happy, hapPY, HAPPY!!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Acorn Bites!

You've probably seen these on Pinterest but they are so adorable that I just couldn't resist making some and sending them to our missionaries.  Truth be told, I think when I first saw them I may or may not have let out a little scream of excitement.  Yup.  They are just that cute.  They are super easy, way fast, relatively inexpensive (I say 'relatively' simply because they make a TON so you can send out lots or give some away to family and friends), and YUMMY!!  I'd give credit but these are seriously EVERYWHERE on the web...
Supplies needed:
Mini Vanilla Wafers
(I found these in our local supermarket. 
They come in the same size box as the regular Vanilla Wafers.)
Hershey Kiss candy
Peanut Butter Chips
(Like chocolate chips only peanut butter!
You can find these by the chocolate chips
in the baking section of your local grocer.)
Caramels (optional)
Begin by unwrapping your Hershey Kisses then melt a small amount of your peanut butter chips.  The peanut butter chips will be your 'glue' to attach everything together OR you could use peanut butter chips to attach the acorn's stem (because it's the same color and shows more) and then use melted caramel to attach the cookie to the kiss.  If you opt for the peanut butter/caramel version you will only need a small amount of melted chips and your finished version will taste just like a Twix candy bar.  Seriously YUMMY!!
Dip the bottom of your Hershey Kiss into the melted peanut butter chips or caramel. Wipe off some of the excess on the edge of the bowl and apply your Mini Vanilla Wafer.  I've also seen this done with Mini Nutter Butter Cookies and while I do like the added texture to the top of the acorn, I didn't want to have to take the cookies apart.  You don't need very much 'glue' otherwise it will squish out around the edges and look messy.  Yup.  Learn from my experience.  On the bright side:  You can eat your mistakes!  Lay them aside on a cookie sheet to set up a bit.

Following the same procedure, attach the peanut butter chip 'stem' to the top of your acorn and set aside.  It doesn't take long for them to set up.
Note:  Please excuse the fact that I was multi-tasking and making dinner at the same time as I was making acorns...and the black in my nails is actually Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint from yet another project earlier in the day.  I tend to cram a LOT into my day's off work.


I sent out quite a few of these acorn bites so I came up with two ideas for packaging.  I loved the little paint cans that I found at the craft store ($2.99) but they were too large to send in the small flat rate boxes from the post office so I only sent those to my son and his companion.  I found the 'Count Your Blessings' free printable online at  They were the perfect size for the center of my paint can.  Then I tied scraps of coordinating ribbon and fiber to the handle (see the photo at the beginning of the post).
I made a bag topper for the other Acorn Bites that I was sending out.  Just put your acorns into a regular sized reclosable sandwich baggie,  seal closed, place your folded bag tag over and staple.  I folded down the top part of my baggie because I didn't fill them all the way full.  Sorry that I forgot to take photos of the finished product.  Don't know where my brain was...
Print the bag topper onto white cardstock and fold in half.
Click here to download the free 'Give Thanks' printable.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fancy Candy

My friend, Cindi at work brought in some candy bars for Halloween.  She had wrapped them in cute chevron wrapping paper and decorated them with ribbons and bows and they were absolutely adorable and incredibly fast, easy and inexpensive (which my husband always loves).  I had already sent Matt's Halloween package but I thought this would be fun to include in his Thanksgiving package.  My thoughts were thus:  There can never be quite enough chocolate.  I realize that not everyone has the same feelings towards chocolate that I do and I also realize that missionary's get lots of treats so should they decide that they don't want to partake, I thought that Matt and his companion could use them as little gifts for those family's that invite them over on Thanksgiving day for dinner. 
Supplies needed:
wrapping paper or scrapbook paper
coordinating ribbons and embellishments
clear tape
large candy bars
These are really simple and pretty self-explanatory...just make a sleeve out of scrapbook paper or wrapping paper and tape it around your wrapped candy bar.  Add any embellishments that you would like i.e. ribbons, bows, stickers, etc.  Then attach a cute tag. I made mine out of coordinating paper and added a sticker to the front and back along with a 'thought'.  I didn't sign our names because I didn't know if they would be giving them away. 
Here's another look at the finished product.  This would be so easy to make for any holiday - Christmas 'thoughts' for your gift tags are already available to download by clicking the link above.  These would even be fun to give out to your Visiting Teaching or Home Teaching families or for a your missionary's birthday.  Happy Holidays!!
PS:  Thanks, Lynnae for helping me
create these little gems. 
Whatever would I do without you?

Monday, November 18, 2013

General Conference on CD

May I share a story from my mission?  I hope you don't mind...I served my mission in Hong Kong and while I was there I had the opportunity to serve in Macau which at the time was a Portugese territory located on a peninsula next to mainland China.  My 'boyfriend' at the time (we're now married) would record General Conference onto cassettes for me.  My companion and I loved to listen to them.  We would get Conference in Hong Kong but we were about a month behind and would only get one session that was translated into Cantonese.  The members would all gather together at the Stake House in Homantin to watch and the rest of Conference would have to be read later from the Liahona (international church magazine).  One spring day I was assigned to provide the spiritual thought at the beginning of our District meeting.  I decided to share portions from President Ezra Taft Benson's memorable talk on the importance of the Book of Mormon.  At that time there were eight missionaries in our District and only three of us were English speaking, the rest being native Chinese.  Before the talk was over all of the native missionaries were openly weeping.  I was surprised!  It's a great talk and while it is indeed a very moving one I had not yet translated it for them.  They were only listening to his voice and therein was the key.  Upon my inquiry I was told that this was the first time that they had ever heard the prophet's actual voice.  Up to that point they had only ever heard an interpreter's voiceover.  We are truly blessed in ways that we don't even realize...
A few years ago I noticed that for an additional US $10, I could order CD's of General Conference when I order my church magazines.  It comes right to my mailbox about a week prior to them coming out at Deseret Book for purchase.  Mason loved them and Matt will too.  Rather than have my missionary carry the CD's around with them for the rest of their mission, I suggest that when they are transferred they leave them in their apartment for other missionaries to enjoy.  This year I ordered two CD's so I can keep one at home as well.
You can order a copy of October 2013 General Conference by clicking here
or by visiting

Music - "Called to Serve"

featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra
Craig Jessop & Max Wilberg - Conductors
Called to Serve
Redeemer of Israel
I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go
How Firm a Foundation
I Am a Child of God
I Believe in Christ
I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus
Ye Elders of Israel
I Know That My Redeemer Lives
High on the Mountain Top
He Sent His Son
Come, Come, Ye Saints
This Is The Christ
God Be With You Till We Meet Again
The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning
Listed as a "must-have CD" for any LDS home, especially those with missionaries in the field."  A brilliant collection of church hymns with a few Primary songs mixed in.  Will warm your heart and fill your missionary with enthusiasm for God's work.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

TALKS - "It is Better to Look Up"

Matt likes us to send inspirational talks.  He is really into studying and only has the 'approved' book list, his scriptures and Preach My Gospel to study from.  He can't even have Lectures on Faith which is amazing to me as it is by the prophet Joseph Smith and was declared to be 'doctrine' in 1835.  Strange.  "Ours is not to reason why..." (Alfred Lord Tennyson)  Anyhow...I CAN send him printouts of things, he just can't have the actual real deal. 
As I stumble upon talks that I think Matt might like, or that he needs to hear, or that are on a particular topic that he is studying on I like to 're-do' them a bit to make them more missionary friendly.  Adjust the font and line spacing, add a photo as well as a title and small summary of what the talk is about and make them double sided to save on postage.  It occurred to me that you might like these as well so from time to time as I stumble upon them or search for things he wants or needs I'll share them with you.

You could also send your missionary a nice binder so they have a place to keep the talks you send.  Make sure you pre-punch the holes for them or put the talks in sheet protectors prior to mailing.  Enjoy!
Click on the image of the speaker to download.

Don't forget to change your printer to print 'double-sided'...
On my PC: click on 'Print', click on 'Properties' tab, click on 'Finishing',
click on 'Print on both sides', click on 'ok', click on 'ok' - should be good to go!

'Words of Wisdom' - a letter idea

This month the 'missionary moms' (and whomever else would like to join us) in our ward will hold our first 'get-together'.  Who knows how often we will meet.  We don't want it to be a stress but more of a support group of friends that meet for just an hour to share thoughts and feelings, ideas, maybe pictures and probably tears.  It was my dear friend, Jackie's idea and it is brilliant and I am so excited.
I asked her if I could bring something fun and easy for the mom's to work on while we're chatting.  It's not crafty really but I suppose it could be as elaborate as you wanted to make it.  I'm doing the preliminary preparations and each mother will bring a spiritual thought or a little message, 'words of wisdom' or encouragement, a poem, favorite scripture, faith promoting story or any kind of little thought to send to each of our missionaries.  That means that each mother will bring 16 copies of the same thing - one for each of the 16 missionaries serving from our ward.  Each 'word of wisdom' can simply be on a piece of paper (full sheet or smaller size cut apart).  It shouldn't take more than a few minutes for each mom to put together and just needs to fit inside a small 3.5"x6.5" size envelope.  Those who can't attend can still email or drop off their 'words of wisdom' and we'll put it together for them.  Should be super easy and our missionaries are going to LOVE it. 
This project doesn't have to be done by just moms!  In fact, we did something very similar at a family gathering and sent them to Mason and my parents when they were on their missions.  On the outside of the top envelope we put the family's surname using letter stickers.  We had an envelope for each family member and stacked the envelopes in order according to age (not sure why...probably just because I'm a little anal...or a lot, depending on who you ask).  You could also do this with just your immediate family or from all of your missionary's friends for their birthday or use it for an advent calendar for any holiday by adding numbers to the envelopes.  Just follow the directions below, fold the envelopes up accordion style and then tie the whole stack with a ribbon and send it on it's merry little way.  Your missionary can open the whole stack all at once or just open one envelope each day.  How awesome would that be to be able to open a letter from home each and every day?

Gather your supplies together...
patterned paper
scissors or paper cutter
small envelopes
glue or double sided clear tape

Begin by cutting your decorative paper inserts measuring 6 inches x 2 inches.  It is not necessary to fill the entire inside of the envelope because it's not visible and it will only add bulk and weight to your finished product.  I used a different patterned paper for each envelope set (so 16 different papers).  By using a coupon I was able to purchase a pad of Halloween paper for far less than purchasing individual papers...then again, I had to do a LOT.  You wouldn't have to use a different patterned paper for each envelope. They could all be the same or alternate between two or three patterns or use scraps of what you already have on hand.

Apply glue or use a small piece of double sided clear tape to adhere decorative paper to the inside of the envelope as shown above and below.

Make sure that your decorative paper is attached just BELOW the fold line of your envelope flap for ease in folding the finished product as shown above.  Continue this process until you have finished all of your envelopes.  Don't worry, it goes pretty fast...
Now you're ready to start assembling them all together...

Apply double sided tape to the areas noted in the above photo OR use a glue stick.  If you are using glue I would apply the glue to the entire flap of the envelope. 

Attach another envelope to the envelope that you just applied tape to.  This time attach your envelope just ABOVE the fold line for ease in folding them all together otherwise they won't fold nicely.  Continue in this process until you have the desired amount of envelopes.  Don't add tape to the very top one...there won't be anything to stick it to, silly! 

Fill your envelopes with all kinds of messages from home.  Here's some ideas that the moms in our group included in their messages:
a letter
favorite scripture and why
an inspirational quote
17 Points of the True Church card from Deseret Book
small candy with a scripture reference written on the outside
an uplifting Conference talk printed from the internet
a missionary story

Some moms have to/get to mail things to foreign missions which can get very pricey.
Keep it light.  Print on both sides of a page and try to keep your message
limited to a single sheet of paper or less.  Our goal for them is 4lbs. or less...

I sent a printable (3.25 in. x 6 in.) that I made in Photoshop along with a short letter from me attaching both together will a paperclip.  It turned out cute.  My first chalkboard printable.  I'm kind of in love with them at the moment...but I digress.  Click on the picture if you would like to download it for your missionary.

Whatever they/your family decides to send, make sure that everyone signs their name so your missionary will know whom each message is from. 

Now just fold them all up accordion style. 

Fold the flap over the top but DON'T glue or tape it shut!

Print out the 'Words of Wisdom' printable onto white cardstock.  Just click on the image below and it will take you to the link.

Put the cut out printable on top of your stack of envelopes and tie them all together with the bow or knot going through the center - see how I provided a nice little space for your bow?  Cute!   I picked up my ribbon at Walmart in their seasonal section for $1 a spool.  Can you say bargain?

Pop it into the small Flat Rate box with some shredded paper, tissue paper or Easter grass (click here if you don't know what I'm talking about), toss in a few pieces of candy or a protein bar and send it on it's merry way.  Easy Peasy!  Way less than the 4lb. limit for mailing overseas.  Have fun!

AND just for you - because I think you AND your missionaries are wonderful, I've already whipped up printables for November and December.  I will post additional months as I get them designed. Just click on the image and it will take you to the link.

(Thanks to for the free digital sunflower stamp.)